Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The E-reader Effect

[Note: Sorry for the lack of extensive posting lately, the last week has been particularly busy].

There was an interesting article in Inside Higher Ed this week on how the shift to digital is beginning to affect university presses. The article opens with a reiteration of how ebooks in higher ed are off to a slow start, compared to trade books. This is not surprising to most of us who follow the ebook business. Trade books, in many ways, are easier to render to devices -- and devices like the Nook or the Kindle are designed to support trade book reading. However, we still lack an effective device and reading environment that effectively supports the more complex engagement patterns that surround textbooks or other course materials.

What was of interest in the article was the reporting out from a recent survey of AAUP members. Citing the study, the piece notes that, "As of last December, e-book sales or licenses accounted for less than 3 percent of total revenue for the overwhelming majority of university presses." Interestingly, this is nearly equivalent to the percentage of ebook sell-through that the college stores see on average. However, the piece goes on to note that, "60 percent of respondents expressed “serious concern” about the viability of their current business models" as a result of declining print sales.

The article points out that ebooks are one of the only segments of the university press business that is growing, and that the rate of growth has increased since the original study was deployed. University Presses are also seeing particular success in making backlisted titles available to consumers.

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